The Franklin Street Bridge over Pigeon Creek and the Greenway Passage trailway is a three-span, three-hinged, spandrel-braced, cantilevered steel deck truss bridge with a suspended span. In recent years, the condition of the superstructure has deteriorated and the heavily-rusted bearing assemblies at the abutments need replacement. Built in 1932, this historic bridge is unique to Indiana and serves an important transportation role in the Evansville community by carrying 4-lanes of traffic and dual sidewalks above while being admired from below by users of the Greenway. Restoring this bridge while maintaining historic integrity would require the unique collaboration of professionals from Lochmueller’s bridge, environmental, and highway design teams.
Before design, Gary Quigg and Hannah Blad, Lochmueller Historians, conducted all work related to Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act. This Act requires that the effects of improvements to historic resources be considered as a part of the environmental review and subject to approval by the Cultural Resource Office (CRO) and the State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO). The bridge falls into Indiana Department of Transportation’s historic bridge preservation program, created in coordination with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, and SHPO, which ensures that historic bridges are given proper consideration when contemplating any work to them.
As Project Manager and Lead Designer, Adam Steury worked closely with Gary to ensure that the history behind the Franklin Street Bridge was maintained. “The ability to utilize a historian such as Gary is an amazing asset when preparing a proposed scope of work for any historic bridge,” Adam said. “Gary has that historical insight to be able to best direct [the Bridge team] on what bridge elements are the most important to ensure preservation and what the best alternatives are in replicating older construction techniques with modern construction materials.”
An examination of the original 1931 construction plans revealed a long-gone “electric railroad” track traversing the bridge and running down Franklin Street. Exemplifying the historic significance, the uncommon, cantilevered truss construction of the bridge certainly provided unique design and construction challenges. Keeping the cultural importance in mind during design was essential to a successful outcome that improved the structure and ensured continued safe use, while maintaining the “feeling and association” of the structure and its components with the historic period in which it was built. One common compromise between historical aesthetics and modern materials on historic steel structures is utilizing rounded headed bolts for easily visible repairs where riveted construction was originally used.
So, what would the project have looked like without a historian on the team? Adam has worked on two other historic bridge rehabilitations in Indiana that did not have a historian on board. During design of those bridges, SHPO required extensive documentation and multiple rounds of reviews to ensure that the bridge elements being replaced best preserved or replicated the historic elements of the bridge. Including a historian on the discussion for Franklin Street Bridge greatly reduced the approval time from CRO and SHPO.
Gary finds being a historian and collaborating with other departments rewarding in several ways. “First, like all other Lochmueller projects I’m involved with, it fulfills my wish to ‘do’ history in and for the public good,” Gary said. For the Franklin Street Bridge project for example, Gary and Hannah focused on improving the safety and longevity of a historic bridge important to the Evansville community. “Second, this project is rewarding because it allowed for collaboration with colleagues from other departments within the company.”
Design of the Franklin Street Bridge continues, with construction of the improvements expected in the coming year.
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